Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Composition Study: Figures on a Shore with a Fierce Storm over a Plain Beyond

1798

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Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 135 x 95 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D01566
Turner Bequest XL 60 a

Catalogue entry

This is perhaps, as proposed by Jerrold Ziff1 and followed by Lynn Matteson, a study for the oil painting The Army of the Medes destroyed in the Desart by a Whirlwind, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801.2 The subject is continued on folio 63 recto opposite (D01567; Turner Bequest XL 61). In its explosive force and vigorous use of chalks as well as pencil, this is one of the most remarkable drawings of Turner’s early years. Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll note its compatibility with contemporary comments on the painting which refer particularly to the dust and smoke.3 It embodies much of his ambition as a painter of historical subjects, anticipating as it does the great Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army crossing the Alps of 1812 (Tate N00490).4 Another opening of this book, folios 60 verso–61 recto (D01562–D01563; Turner Bequest XL 58a–59) has a drawing that seems to be a similar though less dramatic idea for the same subject.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

1
Ziff 1964, p.330.
2
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.13–15 no.15, untraced.
3
Ibid., p.14.
4
Ibid., pp.88–90 no.126, pl.131 (colour).

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